The National Gallery of Australia has decided to return 14 artworks from its Asian art collection to the Indian government.
Worth a combined value of $3 milion, 13 of the artworks were purchased from the New York-based gallery, Art of the Past, run by antiquities dealer and alleged smuggler Subhash Kapoor.
The artworks include six sculptures, six photographs, a painted scroll and a processional standard. Some of the items date back to the 12th century.
This is the fourth time that the NGA will be returning illegally exported works from Kapoor and his associates.
In fact, Kapoor was extradited from Germany to India in July 2012 and has been charged with stealing and illegally exporting antiquities.
“We have strengthened our processes and have zero tolerance now for any inconsistencies in the provenance of a work of art. This is another step towards us building an ethical approach to managing our collections,” ABC News quoted NGA director Nick Mitzevich as saying.
“It’s unfortunate, and the institution is sorry for this development. We are doing all we can to avoid any future missteps of this kind,” Mitzevich said in The Australian.
“It’s a historic issue… The NGA was part of an international fraud campaign that affected more than a dozen of the world’s leading institutions,” he said.
Kapoor’s clients included the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, as well as the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore, the NGA and the Art Gallery of NSW.
The Indian High Commission in Australia has welcomed the move, though it will take a few months before the works are actually handed over.
In a tweet, Manpreet Vohra, the Indian High Commissioner to Australia, said that India is grateful to Australia and the National Gallery of Australia for their decision to return the extraordinary pieces of art to India.